The realities of running a $50k membership community - Tom RossThe realities of running a $50k membership community - Tom Ross

The realities of running a $50k membership community

Recently I shared the details of how I’ve built a $50k membership community in a little over a year, as a very part-time side hustle / passion project.

There’s certainly a lot to be grateful for. Our members are awesome. I’m still amazed at how much I can get done in such a limited time. For the past few months our MRR (monthly recurring revenue) has been growing at over 5% MoM. That’s more traction that pretty much any personal project I’ve ever launched.

But… I certainly don’t want to act like this project is easy. That would be unrealistic and unhelpful. Today, I want to share some of the realities of running a community like this part-time.

Growth is inconsistent

I would love to say that we just grow organically. It would be awesome to sit back and watch the new members roll in. Unfortunately that’s not the case (yet).

It takes work to attract new members. Whether that’s trying to fit in speaking gigs. Staying consistent with this blog/newsletter. Putting out content on social. It all matters.

There are definitely times where I don’t manage to fit this crucial work in, and as a result, our community growth plateaus. Around the time of our daughter’s birth, community revenue didn’t move for 4 straight months. I was basically in ‘maintenance mode’, so maxed out with figuring out parenthood that I barely had the mental energy to keep things ticking over.

Likewise, this month our MRR will contract (just slightly), which hurts, after several months of excellent growth. It’s pretty easy for me to correlate this drop with the fact I’ve been super maxed out with my company and juggling fatherhood. It’s been so busy I’ve even missed this blog/newsletter a couple of times this month (which I hate doing!).

If I stop marketing the community, things tend to flatline:

Engagement takes time

I’m happy to say that despite a drop in new member sign-ups, this month has been excellent in terms of engagement.

I’m seeing a huge increase in new posts, and increasingly members are helping each other, without my prompting.

However, it’s taken 18 months to get there!

Just a reminder that engagement and community culture take real time to build.

I’m still definitely not at a point where I can be hands-off in the community and trust that members will naturally bring each other sufficient value. I’m very aware that my personal responses and guidance are a huge factor in members seeing ROI from the community.

It’s heading in the right direction, but it’s definitely a hands-on exercise for me.

My to do list is overwhelming

Due to being so busy right now, I’m basically working ‘in’ my community, rather than ‘on’ my community.

I’m still managing to respond to all posts/DMs and host our key community events.

But that’s it.

As a result, I have a growing to-do list that brings me anxiety whenever I think about it.

This includes:

  • Produce our flagship community course (a huge project)
  • Finish designing my new landing page for Learn.Community
  • Do a better job promoting my lead magnet
  • Do a member survey (overdue!)
  • Rework my email optin series
  • Submit my community to a directory

And about 50 other tasks.

I do my best to give myself grace. Sometimes life gets busy. This is a long-term project for me. I shouldn’t beat myself up. But it does suck knowing there’s meaningful things I should be doing to grow and improve the community that I’m just perpetually not getting to.

The challenge is doing, rather than knowing

Earlier in my career, I was less experienced and so often didn’t know what to do in order to grow my online ventures.

Now, I’m thankful that I generally have enough experience to know what to do.

It’s the doing it that is the struggle.

A good analogy is going to the gym. Since having our daughter, my exercise routine has been sporadic at best.

I know it’s good for my health, mood and mental state to go to the gym. Yet day after day, I keep skipping it.

Other things often pop up that feel higher priority.

Maybe I’m not in the best mindset that day.

I may get distracted by something at work.

Whatever it is, I know how to work out. I know I should work out. But I don’t do it.

It’s the same thing with my community.

I know what I should be doing. But I keep pushing it.

This is why people often don’t require more information. They require support, positive habits, mental reframing and motivation to get shit done.

If you’re having doubts or frustrations, you’re not alone

The point of sharing all this today is because I know I’m not alone in feeling these things.

I speak with community builders every day within Learn.Community, and even the ones who appear to be crushing it have their own doubts, insecurities and challenges to face.

Building a community (or a business) is hard. If it wasn’t, everyone would do it.

This is my pep talk to you (and myself) to keep going. Consistency matters. Showing up for years matters.

I’m going to experience times of motivation and growth.

I’ll also experience times of plateau, overwhelm and frustration.

But I’m going to keep going.

I hope you do too.

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